In the early part of the 20th Century, automotive designers were just starting to understand the benefits of aerodynamic bodywork, although at the time it was called ‘streamlining’. Streamlining was still a pretty new idea, most manufacturers still made their cars in the shape of a box, with a vertical front grille and windshield and quite literally no attempt was made to manage or control the flow of air around the vehicle.
Aurel Persu was one of the first men to understand the importance of aerodynamics. Born in Romania in 1890, he was a graduate of the Royal Technical College of Charlottenburg in Berlin. Persu was inspired by the simple raindrop, and wanted to create a vehicle which had a similarly low drag coefficient. His masterpiece was the Persu Streamliner, a teardrop shaped vehicle with aerodynamic bodywork and wheels which were set within the body – as opposed to sticking out, like on most other vehicles of the time.
The Persu Streamliner was finished in 1923, and in 1924 Persu received a patent from the German government for his design. Powering the vehicle was a 1.4 litre four-cylinder engine which produced just 20 horsepower. Yet despite such a feeble powerplant, the slippery profile of the vehicle allowed for a 50 mph top speed.
To prove his car was well-engineered and capable of long distance travel, Persu drove it from Germany to Romania to drum up some publicity. Both Ford and GM got wind of the design and approached Persu asking to buy the rights to the design, however because neither manufacturer gave assurances they would actually build his car, Persu turned them both down.
Unfortunately this proved to be a poor decision, as nobody else showed interest in putting the Persu Streamliner into mass production. Persu had missed his golden opportunity. Shortly after, the one and only prototype was put into storage. It currently resides in the Dimitrie Leonida Technical Museum in Romania.